January – how did that happen

Hard to comprehend the recent events in Paris, my thoughts and prayers certainly with them and humanity as a whole and judging by the scenes of all those people at the march yesterday, humanity definitely won.

I’m not sure how it happened, but we’re nearly at the mid way point of January and as yet, I don’t feel I’ve got going! All the Christmas ‘friends’ were put away on time (other than the odd one that you seem to find a good 2 weeks later), the weather hasn’t been that bad and the phone is still ringing for work which is always comforting. It might have something to do with the start of the year when it was greeted in by Libby our Retriever being struck down with a rather nasty bug and for the first time in years, I ended up spending the night on the settee with her – glad to report she is now back to normal and an order has been put in for a new settee!

It’s that time of year to keep extra vigilent if you’ve got hens as foxes are pairing up now, and already our neighbour has lost all but one of hers. Out of the 6 killed, only 2 bodies were taken which makes me think she was visited by a pair and they carried away one each. I struggle with foxes, if they’re hungry then I can understand the killing and eating of one bird, but but they don’t stop at that, they slaughter the others, almost for fun which I hate and having witnessed one in torch light circling a new born calf as she was suckling her Mum, I really do not like to see them anywhere near my stock.
I had a close encounter just before Christmas when I heard one of my hens in distress, heading down the garden and there she was running towards me with said fox right behind her and only 2 feet away from me, not sure who was more surprised.
Our snowdrops are just beginning to emerge and I’ve even seen the bud of a daffodil. We seem to have an even larger population of Goldfinches at the moment and glad to see the return of the Nuthatch.
We’ve had a bit of snow, I suspect we’ll get hit with it over the next few weeks – as long as they can deliver my settee, I’ll be happy!

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My blogs are like buses!

After having watched closed doors for over 40 minutes last night I must admit to feeling a little disappointed when I went to put the hens away that there wasn’t a crowd waiting for me and a huge cheer when I opened ours! What a gorgeous little chap the new Prince is, and I sounded just like my Mum when I said out loud ‘long fingers, he’ll play the piano!’

Come November there’ll be similar scenes, well maybe a little quieter, as one of my pals is due to have her daughter. Have to say we’re all excited and I keep finding myself looking at all things baby, as long as I don’t get asked if I’m the Grandparent I’ll be happy – memories of Tenbury Applefest last year still run deep!

Also happening in our world is that’s we’re full on with Food & Drink Festivals with our Cookery Theatres which is wonderful and it’s great to have livestock back on the bank again. I hadn’t realised just how much I have missed having something furry or hairy to play with.

I’m working at the first ever Cosford Food Festival this weekend whilst Glyn is over in Lampeter for theirs so a busy one ahead, good job those doors opened when they did then.

 

 

 

The column that never was!

When Herefordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire & Worcestershire Life Magazines ceased printing at the end of June it meant that my July column was never printed, so here it is (with slight change to the County extras) and it’s all about fish!

I feel very proud at the moment and it’s all because something has been named after me. At this point you may be thinking animal, perhaps a friend’s baby, if not then a sweet pea or rose? Well, none of the above, my name has been linked to cheese – a fermenting Cheddar to be precise called Katie 3 & 4, carefully crafted by Head Cheese maker Dudley Martin at Ludlow Food Centre when he used the milk from the weekends I relief milked for the Earl of Plymouth Estates – how lovely is that.

Summer is well and truly with us then, although I’ve only just removed the electric blanket from our bed and must admit to keeping a Kagool within easy reach. I reckon it stems from being brought up on the east coast in Grimsby, once the busiest fishing port in the UK.

I do wonder if I overdosed on fish as a child as I have to admit it doesn’t regularly feature in my diet. Apparently we should aim to eat two portions a week yet, four out of five households are more likely to eat fish only once a month with Salmon, Cod, Haddock, Tuna and Prawns being our favourites but we need to be looking at other species such as Saithe, Hake, Ling and Gurnard which sound more like members of the Swedish version of ‘Take That’ to me.

When fish is the topic of a cookery demonstration at festivals, you can always guarantee a large audience and alongside learning tips and hints on preparation and eating, you also hear about fishing practices. You’d think the same standards of care and attention is taken with fish as we do our farm animals, but sadly that’s not always the case. Some fish are being taken out of the sea faster than they can replenish themselves, and it isn’t just how many fish are being caught, it’s how we catch them. Something I can’t believe is legal is the use of dredgers on the seabed, dragging everything in their path destroying the habitat as it goes – horrific. There have been EU talks discussing the disgraceful dumping of unwanted fish so that’s a start, but a lot more needs to be done.

There are ways we can help and it’s down to the fish we buy although labelling is under scrutiny too. The only official requirement is for species name, approximate catch area and whether it was caught or farmed in fresh or seawater. Use your local Fishmonger if you’re lucky enough to have one and if you want to know which fish to eat and which to avoid, there’s the website of Marine Conservation Society based in Ross on Wye.

When you think Shropshire is the largest landlocked county in England it is blessed with experts when it comes to fish. For instance Fish House in Ludlow owned by Andy and third generation Fishmonger Louise Hackney and Fiona Asson who founded Fish in a Box and now runs Fiona on Fish with cookery courses and underground supper clubs. Fiona will be demonstrating as part of the very first RAF Cosford Food Festival this month and all being well with the weather, it will also feature the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Flypast.

One chap who knows his stuff is Tom Court from The Granary Restaurant at Shenstone near Kidderminster in Worcestershire. He’ll be taking part in the Five Chefs event celebrating the best of the county at the end of the month and we’ve just booked him to do a demo for Tenbury Countryside Show 3 August. Then there’s Martyn Emson who brought fish to the attention whilst chef patron at The Jolly Frog at Leintwardine and now runs Ludlow Traditional Smoke House from his home at Wigmore in Herefordshire and when he’s not doing that, he and Fishmonger Tony Wilkes from The Fish House in Ludlow  run courses at the local college.

Things I have also learnt about fish whilst writing this column – most of them have taste buds all over their body which means they can taste without opening their mouths, and flat fish aren’t born flat, they begin life shaped round whereas I seem to have gone in the opposite direction – maybe it’s too much cheese!

Out with the old

I hadn’t planned on getting up so early, but I guess with it being the last day of the year might as well make the most of it! 3.45am it was, due to a wet nose from an elderly Border Collie who doesn’t always go through the night and too many years of milking cows followed by early breakfast radio means once I’m awake, I’m awake.

 Not sure where the year has gone, but it has and it certainly will leave its mark especially with losing Glyn’s Mum in November.

Early on we had to say goodbye to our woolly and furry friends as we lost our patch of rented ground. We still have regular updates and all are doing brilliantly I’m pleased to report. Blossom and Ruby both in calf, Lily, Lottie and Shirl in lamb and dear Gracie still growing and best friends with fellow Highlander Button. Never a day goes by without me thinking about them but with all the rain we’ve had I know it would have been tough going here as I’m not the best on a slippery bank and where they’ve gone they stil are on grass and not on hay where as here, we’d have started feeding them end of October so they’re much better where they are. I’ll probably look at having something on our own 3 acre patch next year, but I won’t keep cattle again, not until the lottery of TB is addressed.

Then there were the highs, what a summer for the Country as a whole with The Olympics, Paralympics and Jubilee Celebrations and proud to say we were part of both the Herefordshire and Shropshire events that took place marking Her Majesty’s visit.

This was the year that saw our new business ‘Wots Cooking’ come to light. For years we’ve both worked for Food, Drink and Gardening Festivals either chatting or supplying sound and visuals for other peoples cookery demonstration kitchens, but now we have our own and we’re loving it. Huge thank you to all those who have supported us and if you’ve not seen it, there’s a video thank you on the front page of our website!

I’ve not worn a pair of radio headphones this year due to working most weekends, although have made the occasional appearance usually involving calories and that’s where I seem to be heading now. My existing column for Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley Life Magazines is now a foodie one, and the last month has seen it included in Warwickshire Life and Shropshire Life too which I’m thrilled about, especially Shropshire having written for them 3 years ago.

Farming side too I didn’t think I’d ever have to buy a new boiler suit, but I’ve met and helped out a local estate (think Downtown Abbey) with relief milking duties early on in the year and more recently looking after the youngstock and even though my body is way too old for all things physical now, I loved every minute of it.

Friendship is something I care hugely about and I’m lucky to have some wonderful pals so it was lovely in the summer to catch up again with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen or heard from in 30 years (I’d like to say since primary school but sadly not)!

So, wonder what 2013 has in mind for us all, here’s hoping for a drier one, a kind one and maybe if we’re lucky, a warm one. Whatever it throws at us, let’s hope we catch the good stuff.

Happy New Year x

 

Just got a few things to do first!

Well, if you’re anything like me then we’re not ready for Christmas and what happened to people not sending cards this year?! I love receiving them, especially because our postie Dave is still in shorts – long story but involves him, a colleague and a yearly bet!

Been a bit of tough one this last month as sadly we lost Glyn’s Mum, Brenda. She went into hospital with a broken arm and never came home. His Dad has been amazing, especially when you think they’d only just celebrated 70 years together, we’ll all miss her but will raise a glass or two in memory this Christmas.

So our last working weekend for the year has come and gone with the last few days spent at Plassey Leisure Park near Wrexham for their Festive Food & Gift Fair, always nice to be asked back as we supplied our cookery demonstration kitchen for their summer event too. Was lovely to catch up with Chef Brian Mellor who’s doing great things with his Harthill Cookery School in Cheshire, he’s been a good pal to us with regard to our business which started at a similar time to ours and thank goodness we’re all still standing, although maybe with a slight lean as we’re a bit bushed!

Delighted to say my  food and drink column is now in Shropshire and Warwickshire Life Magazines from this month which is all very exciting, and if you are a food or drink producer in one of those counties or  Herefordshire or Worcestershire, please feel free to let me know what you’re up to, you can always contact me via my website or on Twitter @katiejjohnson

So our special family recipe Christmas pudding is ready, as is the mincemeat so all we need to do now is get the tree, presents, food, oh yes and decorate the house! I do have the cards though and it’s thanks to St Richards Hospice in Worcester for those, fell in love with them when I was kindly given a tour of what is truly an amazing place with some incredible people inside. Here’s hoping we can help with a spot of fundraising next year.

If they ever need a man in shorts in December, at least I know where to look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never a dull moment

That’s the affect that Alan Titchmarsh has on me, having posted a picture in June that was taken at Chelsea Flower Show this year I’ve not been heard from since!

It’s been a busy time for our new business www.wotscooking.co.uk which is wonderful, although have to admit to slight disappointment that will all this physical activity I’m still not a size 12 and in all honesty, never will be now as I’ve been asked to write my monthly food and drink column for Shropshire and Warwickshire Life Magazines as well as Herefordshire and Worcestershire. All very exciting and delighted to do so, first one will be out for December.

It does appear that calories have become my life and let’s be honest, there’s not many I’ve met and didn’t like. Speaking of tasty! was lovely to catch up again with the gorgeous Jean-Christophe Novelli at Malvern Autumn Show, he really is one of the nicest people and a great Chef too, I always seem to learn something from him each time and that doesn’t often happen. I’m looking forward to working with Mary Berry for the first time at the end of the month at this years ‘Allpay Flavours of Herefordshire Food Festival’, we’ve chatted on the radio a few times but never met.

At home we still need a new kitchen door and with all this wet stuff we’ve discovered it can rain indoors – well we always wanted a home with character! Poor old hens had a visit from the fox the other day which has put pay to all egg production now. He didn’t get them thankfully, infact I was there at the time thank goodness, I was sorting the water out in their pen so they’d headed away from me towards our fence line and I heard one of the girls making the most unusual noise, looked up and there he was standing 5 feet away from her. Needless to say a few choice words said loudly accompanied by a lot of arm waving moved him on, but it’s been enough to do them a mischief.

We were working at Tenbury Applefest last weekend which was good fun, except when two teenage girls thought I’d like to buy toffee apples for my, and I quote, grandchildren! Now I appreciate that if I’d started young I would possibly have maybe one, but they referred to a few and if they’re eating toffee apples they’re probably 6 years old! I know it was cold, and I was edging towards tired, but I’m changing my face cream, it’s a load of ‘Boswollox’

It’s a writing day today then later in the week I’m off to Herefordshire to watch the apple pressing for cider making, followed by a very posh doo where we’ll see who has won various food and drink awards in Worcestershire and Warwickshire. It has a dress code of black tie, which just about sums up the contents in my wardrobe.